Oxford: The University of Oxford has had close links with India for centuries, but for the first time the ancient seat of learning will celebrate an 'Oxford-India Day' on Friday by bringing together scholars and a select group of Indian business, academic and policy leaders.

Oxford -– better known by poet Matthew Arnold's description as a 'city of dreaming spires' -– has been home to thousands of Indian students since the late 19th century, including leading lights such as Manmohan Singh, Indira Gandhi, Amitav Ghosh, Cornelia Sorabji and Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi.

In the current academic year, there are 363 Indian students, mostly postgraduates studying social sciences.

Indian students are the sixth largest national group at the university, Ruth Collier, Head of Information at the university said.

There are 1,100 Oxford alumni currently in India, while Indian academics at the university number 84, Collier said. Besides, there are extensive research and collaborative links between the university and India.

The one-day event on Friday will include a cricket match, presentations by leading scholars on India, a concert and a reception at the Ashmolean Museum.

Noted historian Ramachandra Guha will present a keynote address on the topic, 'Why India is the world's most interesting country', while Lord Chris Patten, Chancellor, will recount the 'enduring relationship' between India and Oxford.

Patten said the university had four for the day: "to communicate to invited guests and the wider public the breadth of Oxford-India connections through people, research, and historical/artistic treasures; to re-engage with and energise alumni interested in India, to bring together researchers from across the university working on India, and to lay the foundation for new and expanded links with India".

Oxford links with India go back a long way in history. The first recorded Englishman to arrive in India was from Oxford (Father Thomas Stephens from New College, in 1579). His letters lay the foundation of Anglo-Indian literature.

The first Indian paintings given to any Western library were given to the Bodleian Library (Mughal paintings given in 1630 by William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury and St John's College graduate).

The first Oxford professorship relating to India was established in 1832; Indian students first came to Oxford in 1871, when entry opened to non-clergy; and Oxford's Indian Institute was founded in 1883.

Oxford University Press India is coming up for its 100th anniversary: it was founded in 1912.

More recent milestones include the founding of the Asian Studies Centre at St Antony's College (1982); and the appointment of Oxford's first Professor of Indian History and
Culture (2002).

In 2008, the university launched the one-year MSc in Contemporary India, the first of its kind in the world.

The course immerses students in knowledge about India's signal achievements and its persistent challenges, while teaching rigorous social science analysis. The course has attracted high quality students from India and worldwide, Collier said.